“Love is saying, ‘I feel differently' instead of ‘you're wrong.'” ~Unknown
We seek it, want it, need it, yet it eludes so many of us: genuine, heart-felt, unconditional love. Not infatuation, lust, or what you think makes you happy, but true intimacy at the level of your soul.
How do we create deep authentic connections with those who matter most? Love seems to come in precious moments that we can’t seem to grasp before time and our busy lives takes their toll. Must we try so hard to make love work? Doesn’t love just flow?
We hear about unconditional love, that we must love ourselves first before we can love another. It requires something so simple, yet difficult in practice: letting go of making ourselves, and others, wrong.
When you make someone else wrong, you hold the energy of needing to correct, convince, control, or change someone else (the 4 C’s, as I call them). Someone should be or do the way you expect. Blaming, complaining, or condemning becomes acceptable.
When you make yourself wrong, you hold thoughts of how you should be, and end up feeling not good enough. We now see ourselves and others as objects or problems that need to be fixed.
I grew up in the most loving, caring, stable family environment, with three brothers and two sisters. Being the eldest girl, I followed the rules and learned what was right and wrong.
My parents, both physicians, worked hard and instilled strong values of kindness, respect, and education. It was critical we each have an independent profession. It made sense, and we became three physicians, two MBAs, and me, a Chartered Accountant.
We all lead happy personal and professional lives. All married with fifteen children among us, we get along with virtually zero drama or conflict, and have the most amazing family get-togethers. We look forward to the holidays, and numerous birthday celebrations. Surprisingly, it turned out we are the exception.
I attribute the harmony we experience to my mother who gives of herself like no other with an uncanny ability to not complain about anything. She is one smart, highly productive woman.
Logical with astounding common sense, she instilled high self-esteem—the secret ingredient to happiness. What about love? It didn’t need to be expressed to certainly know I was loved. Yet something was missing.
There was criticism and judgment growing up I couldn’t see—right and wrong and good and bad. It was not just in my family, it was everywhere.
Expectations of how we were to behave, what we were supposed to know, who were expected to be, and the kind of person we needed to marry were clear.
When I switched careers to dedicate my life to helping others, I suddenly found myself on a spiritual path. Suddenly I was learning things that did not fit with my “family norms.” I quickly learned what I could no longer share.
Harmony exists because everyone knows what to say and what not say. The moment I stepped out of my “family box,” something shifted. My happiness grew, and I unexpectedly discovered what unconditional love meant. I learned that happiness is a changing state of being, and love can be experienced on many different levels.
But what about things people say and do that have destructive consequences?
Many believe love is putting up with, sacrificing, tolerating, or suffering in silence, thinking their commitment is proof of their love. This is not love.
Understanding, seeing, hearing, and accepting someone for who they are is love.
When you make someone wrong, there’s a value you hold being stepped on. It’s black and white in your mind, but in between lives everyone else’s perception of truth.
Someone not living up to your value of “hard work” you may judge as “lazy.” Someone who does not follow your idea of “giving” you may judge as “selfish.” Someone you judge as “inconsiderate” is not acting in a way you see as “kindness.”
Notice how it feels when others project their values onto you. The question is not whether someone is right or wrong, but whether the words and actions are coming from the spectrum of fear on one side or love on the other. The result will be either constructive or destructive.
Extreme fear breeds hatred leading to very destructive consequences that Hitler created in the world he lived in. Extreme love leads to compassion, and what Mother Teresa created in the world she lived in.
When you let go of needing others to live according to your “right” way, you realize how others respond is simply a projection of their reality.
A shift can now happen away from your fear-based ego toward love and compassion, where you can seek to understand, share, teach, and model. Trying to be patient is next to impossible in the place of fear, but shift to love and you will find all the patience you need.
We are all seeking truth, but truth is in the eye of the beholder. Discernment not judgment leads you to truth by getting curious and noticing whether someone’s perception of reality comes from love or fear. It’s the difference between competition and cooperation, doubt and trust. It will lead to holding on or letting go.
You stand in a place of superiority when you judge and see others as inferior. It’s a destructive energy of being attached to “I am right” that you project onto someone else. Notice that what comes back will be defensiveness because no one believes they are “wrong.” Criticism is also being attached to “I am right,” but you don’t necessarily see someone as inferior.
The Golden Rule found in all spiritual teachings: Are you treating someone the way you want to be treated? Who wants to be treated to criticism and judgment?
When you let go of convincing, correcting, controlling, and trying to change others, you release a big illusion in love, ownership.
Your ego can convince you that belonging to someone is wonderful, but it’s the opposite. Having the independence to share your true self and allow others the same brings true intimacy.
No one makes you happy; happiness is found within. Until you live in compassion with yourself, the love you give will be conditional.
We are each a unique expression raised from birth to the present day living our truth based on our own values, beliefs, experience, and understanding. In every given moment we can only be and do our best. Your best will not be the same as someone else’s best.
We cling to love wanting it to last forever, but it cannot for we are the ones carrying that love, and we are constantly evolving.
The love we share is either growing together or growing apart. The paradox is love can grow apart, but it can also grow stronger.
I married someone who fit the idea of what I thought was “right,” and my awareness at that time of what I thought would bring me happiness. It has.
I thought this was love, but it was conditional, and that’s why it felt like something was missing. Now I know differently, and there is a lot more authenticity. We are closer than we’ve ever been.
The secret to experiencing deeper love is allowing each other to grow.
Today, I experience the most profound sense of love I have ever known, especially with my three children where I needed to let go of criticizing and judging them.
I’ve learned that love is wanting others to be happy without it needing it to be about you. This is how I know I love my husband, children, family, and friends, even my clients. They are not dependent on me for their happiness, and I am not dependent on them.
It’s when I can show up without criticism and judgment and I allow them to be exactly who they are that love is exchanged.
Unconditional love doesn’t always come from the family we were born into because criticism, judgment, and the resulting expectations are a big part of family culture.
Family love is strong, lasting, and nothing compares, but experiencing unconditional love will often require you to break free from the family circle to follow your heart, and your own truth.
True love is eternal even if a relationship grows apart. When you surrender judgment, you will see the divine in everyone, including you. This is love.
Photo by h.koppdelaney